Weekly Asian Bulletin 19 May 2023 – Heatwave edition


Medical Channel Asia presents the weekly Asian medical news bulletin, bringing you essential healthcare news from across the region. Asia finds itself gripped by an unprecedented heatwave, with soaring temperatures marking record highs not seen in decades. This week’s bulletin will focus on heat-related news across the region.

The sweltering weather, with temperatures ranging from 40 to 50 degrees Centigrade, is taking its toll across the region. Countries near the equator, including India, Bangladesh, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, China’s eastern part, and the Philippines, are experiencing this brutal onslaught of heat. Consequently, this scorching climate is posing serious threats to the health of the residents, especially the young, the elderly, and those with existing health conditions, raising concerns among health professionals.


India, close to the equator, is experiencing temperatures between 40 to 50 degrees Centigrade. The high temperatures have resulted in 11 heat stroke-related deaths just this April. The nation’s meteorological department warns that heatwaves of 52 degrees and above can cause severe harm to humans, animals, and crops. The most vulnerable are young children and the elderly, who can experience symptoms like high body temperature, redness, slurred speech, and general weakness due to extreme heat.


In Thailand, the Meteorological Department recorded temperatures equalling the record 44.6 degrees Celsius in the western province of Tak. Experts warn that this year’s heat might have been exacerbated due to human actions. Scientists, such as Fahad Saeed from Climate Analytics, echo this sentiment and caution that the soaring temperatures are a result of climate change. Extreme heat can be life-threatening for those without access to cooling or adequate shelter.


The Philippines has seen temperatures rise to 47 degrees Celsius in San Jose, Occidental Mindoro and Butuan City. Vulnerable populations, including young children and elderly people, are at risk of heat stroke due to rising temperatures. The Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration warns that temperatures above 52 degrees Centigrade can be detrimental to humans, animals, birds, and plants. The public is advised to stay indoors, wear loose and light-coloured clothes, and avoid vigorous sports under the sun.


In Bangladesh, where temperatures reached a record 40.6 degrees Celsius, the highest since the 1960s, hundreds gathered in the capital Dhaka to pray for rain. The low-lying country is being dramatically impacted by climate change, enduring devastating flooding and erratic rainfall. The extreme heat is hitting the poor the hardest, as it may become life-threatening for those without access to cooling or adequate shelter.


Despite Malaysia’s ongoing spell of hot weather, Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi has stated that there is currently no need to declare a heat wave emergency, according to Malay Mail. However, the situation is being closely monitored, with reconsideration possible if temperatures rise to 40C (104F). In light of recent water shortages in Penang and Kedah due to a dam failure, the National Water Services Commission highlighted the need for inter-state water sharing to avoid a potential crisis, as reported by the Star.


Following a relatively cool week, the National Center for Hydro-Meteorological Forecasting anticipates a return to hot weather in Vietnam’s northern and central regions, home to Hanoi and Da Nang, from Tuesday. This change is due to a hot low-pressure area developing in the west. From Wednesday, we expect daytime temperatures to exceed 35 degrees Celsius. Meanwhile, American site AccuWeather predicts Hanoi will hit highs of 37-38 degrees. Despite this, we do not anticipate the heatwave to reach the intensity of the one in early May. Then, temperatures broke records soaring up to 44.2 degrees. Meanwhile, the south and Central Highlands are experiencing monsoon conditions. Overall, the summer is predicted to be warmer than usual with fewer storms, influenced by the El Nino phenomenon.

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